Eight volunteers from Kansas, South Dakota, and Colorado attended the second annual D.C. State Chair Fly-in in January. The group had more than 15 meetings on Capitol Hill with offices from around the region. Several visits were with newly elected members of Congress, including Senator Cory Gardner (R-CO) and Representative Sherrice Davids (D-KS), introducing new policymakers to Ducks Unlimited’s work in the Great Plains Region (GPR).
Legislative sessions in all seven states in the GPR kept regional staff and volunteers busy.
In Montana, DU co-sponsored the Sportsmen’s Caucus Reception in January, attended by many legislators and Governor Steve Bullock. Ducks Unlimited policy and conservation staff worked with the Montana Sporting Coalition to oppose bills relating to conservation easement restrictions and limitations on the information considered by Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks in making decisions relating to wildlife. At committee hearings, DU staff testified and worked with volunteers to contact legislators on the bills.
South Dakota DU staff and volunteers attended legislative social events and engaged policy makers on bills relating to conservation funding, the taxation of agricultural land and mowing highway ditches during nesting season. With the state convention in Pierre, DU staff and volunteers hosted a legislative reception. The event was attended by approximately 40 legislators and Governor Kristi Noem. U.S. Senator Mike Rounds (R-SD) spoke at the Saturday night banquet. The annual Camo Day event at the state capitol gave DU staff and volunteers an opportunity to meet with law-makers to talk conservation.
The South Dakota Legislature concluded, and successful issues for DU included a $1 million appropriation for habitat funding and the passage of a bill authorizing South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks to issue a special hunting license for habitat funding.
In North Dakota, GPR policy staff monitored 14 bills relating to charitable gaming, the Outdoor Heritage Fund (OHF), tile drainage, wind energy mitigation, and initiated measures. Staff testified in seven committee hearings related to these bills. DU co-sponsored and largely organized the inaugural Sportsmen’s Caucus Legislative Luncheon attended by more than 80 legislators providing an opportunity to recruit new caucus members. Later that evening, DU co-sponsored the second biennial Sportsmen’s Caucus reception.
Ducks Unlimited staff also organized the third biennial Outdoors Day at the state capitol in Bismarck, which included more than 20 groups representing sportsmen, conservation, and recreation. This year’s theme was North Dakota’s Outdoor Heritage Fund, with an emphasis on supporting legislation that proposes to increase the OHF to $15 million for the next biennium.